In the current UK government, there are cabinet level positions including:

  • Secretary of State for Scotland
  • Secretary of State for Wales
  • Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

These all seem to be long standing positions, where for example: "The Secretary of State [for Wales] is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the Wales Office."

Why is no there Secretary of State for England?

  • 3
    A related issue is that there is no Devolved English parliament, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do have their own parliaments/assemblies.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 30, 2017 at 15:42

2 Answers 2


Short version

The Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for policy where it differs from England.

For example, the police in England are the responsibility of the Home Secretary. The distinct challenges of policing in Northern Ireland are handled by the Northern Ireland secretary.

Longer version

The UK is governed by a Parliament located in Westminster. In the British model, Parliament is the one and only source of governing authority. (This differs from federal countries such as the USA, in which states have constitutional authority which cannot be arbitrarily overruled by central government.) Parliament can delegate or devolve some of its authority to local governing bodies.

Some functions of government are exactly the same across the UK. For example, state pensions are administered and paid by central government, and are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Others differ between the UK's constituent nations. For example, Scotland has always had a separate education system, with significant differences from its counterpart in England.

Prior to 1999, decisions were made by Parliament and implemented by the appropriate Cabinet minister. For example, the Secretary of State for Scotland would have administered changes made by an Education Act specific to Scotland as they relate to the parliament in Westminster.

In 1999, powers were devolved from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, and Northern Ireland Assembly. These assemblies and their respective executives (the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive) and now handle policy specific to Scotland, Wales and NI. For example, the Scottish Government has its own Minister of Education, who is responsible for the Scottish education system. The Minister of Education at Westminster handles this policy area for England.

Now, the main duty of the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is to handle relations between the central and devolved governments.

  • A relevant fact (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… ) that perhaps helps to explain why England is the 'default' and its government is handled by the British Government. "Based on the 2011 census the population of England was 53.012m (84% of the UK), Scotland was estimated at 5.295m (8.4%), Wales was 3.063m (4.8%) and Northern Ireland 1.811m (2.9%)."
    – owjburnham
    Jul 1, 2017 at 13:29
  • @owjburnham Note that a broadly equal population balance alone might not be enough to define "default", given that there is (with a lot of justification) a Minister of Women and Equalities in the UK.
    – origimbo
    Oct 27, 2017 at 10:11

There is no Secretary of State for England because the Prime Minister hasn't chosen to create one. There is no need for one because the job of governing England is done by the Prime Minster, the Home Secretary, The Justice Secretary, the rest of the Cabinet and the UK Parliament.

Until quite recently the office of "Secretary of State" was held only by a few of the most senior Ministers. Prior to the Union with Scotland, (and prior to the existence of the post of Prime Minister) there were two Secretaries of State: One for the North and one for the South. A Secretary of State for Scotland was appointed after the Act of Union.

After this time, Cabinet Government developed, and the most senior members of the Cabinet were given the title of "secretary of state" There were secretaries of state for Home, Foreign, Colonies, India and War. Note, not for Scotland.

In the 1960s and on, more and more Ministers were given the title Secretary of State, and that now includes those cabinet ministers with responsibility for Scotland, Wales and NI.

England is much bigger (by population) than the other components of the UK. Matters which would be handled by the Secretary of State for Scotland are handled by either the Prime Minister, or another member of the Cabinet.

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